Heat wave in the desert – Baja California Sur by bike part 1

Oasis San Ignacio


Heat wave in the desert – Baja California Sur by bike part 1

Country: Mexico
From Guerrero Negro to Santa Rosalía
Lesson learned: Better refrain from cycling at noon in the desert during a heat wave
Most wonderful miracle: The perfect oasis
Animals we saw: vultures, lizards, seagulls and little fish
Days on the bike: 2.5
Kilometers cycled: 223
Average kilometers per day: 89.2
Total kilometers cycled: 27,000

Baja California Sur by bike part 1.

Missed the last entry? Here it comes: Antelopes, coyotes and rock paintings – Baja by bicycle part 4
Blog auf Deutsch: Hitzewelle in der Wüste – Baja California Sur mit dem Fahrrad Teil 1

Down in the Baja Sur we left the nature reserve “Valle de los Cirios” and entered the next one: “El Vizcaíno”. The vegetation was sparser here and for several kilometers the few plants were covered in plastic bags, bottles and other trash. It seemed that somebody had the excellent idea of constructing a garbage dump in this flat and windy area.

For a clean Mexico: Take your trash with you!

For a clean Mexico: Take your trash with you!

Finally the west wind was in our favor. The road was flat and we reached today’s destination before noon. Today we had biked past several farms for fruits and vegetables. That meant cheap local fruit! We sat down with a nice couple and shared our watermelon.

Roberto eats a watermelon

Yummi lunch

The couple had moved here from the mainland. They earned 150 Pesos per day. That’s not very much even though it is about double the minimum wage. They were happy though, it had been hard for them to find jobs back home. Over here they had a daily income, enough food and bonuses for hard work.

Flat empty desert road

Not much to see today, it was a flat and easy morning

It was still hot at 3 pm, but we were eager to take advantage of the tail wind, so we continued nevertheless. The heat was hard to cope with and for a long time there was not a single tree to be seen. After a while there was a big estate to our right. It was filled with palm trees and other tall trees, but surrounded by a high fence. We reached the entrance and asked security man Luis for permission to take a short break in the shade.

Roberto in the shade

Finally some shade!

Luis checked every single car and truck that entered or left the premises, and while we enjoyed the fresh and cool wind in the shade, he brought us two ice cold bottles of coke. They were so cold that there were little pieces of ice swimming in them. That was unexpected! In fact he wouldn’t let us leave before we had refilled all our bottles with ice cold water. Fifteen minutes later the sun had heated our bottles up enough to bring the water to the less refreshing temperature of fresh pee, but at least those fifteen minutes we were constantly refreshed in the hot desert.

Dark smoke from a palm tree forest

This was certainly no rain

After 123 kilometers we reached a little roadside restaurant and stopped for an empanada, two burritos and two tamales. The restaurant’s owner was the first one to realize that the dark cloud behind the hills was no rain, but smoke. She called her daughters who went to school in the next village, and jumped into her car. San Ignacio’s palm forest was on fire! Her father Don Ángel stayed to keep the business running and we decided to accept his offer to spend the night here. I don’t think we would have slept all that good that close to a fire.

Sunset in the desert

We hopped into the tent just after sunset

By the following morning the fire was under control. Fortunately it had not reached the town. We started the ride just before sunrise and reached San Ignacio after only 24 kilometers. Our plan was to stop for breakfast and continue the ride, but when we saw that there was a “Casa del Ciclista” (house of the cyclist, a free or cheap place for cyclists to spend the night), we decided that despite the early time of day we wanted to spend at least a night here.

Othon y su Familia

Othon and his family are the owners of the Cyclist’s campground

The fire was out and there wasn’t even smoke anywhere. We couldn’t have asked for anything more. All we had wanted in the hot desert was some shade, refreshing wind and water. San Ignacio was an oasis and here we got all that and more. This place was paradise!

San Ignacio - An oasis in the middle of the desert!

An oasis in the middle of the desert!

In the middle of the small town there was the lake. It was close enough from the highway to walk, and yet it was too far for the traffic noises to reach us. The oasis was untouched, there were no artificial sandy beaches, nobody selling sunglasses, no beer stands and no rental beach chairs.

Annika relaxes in the water

The perfect way to spend a heat wave day!

On the lakeside there was an eco campground. We had bikes and tent at Othon’s “Casa del cyclista” But owner Pilarillo gave us a good price for an hour of kayaking and we paid a few pesos extra for the day use fee.

Kayaking in San Ignacio, Baja California Sur

Pilarillo went for a brief kayak ride

It was one of those perfect days. There we were, enjoying the heat wave in the shade of the palm trees, eating burritos and chips, drinking beer and simply enjoying the fresh water. Another great thing about the lagoon was that there were no sting rays, jellyfish, crocodiles or leeches.

Young cowboy in Mexico

There’s more than swimming, biking and kayaking!

Instead the lake was home to many small fish that nibbled our skins and provided a nice free exfoliation. We spent all afternoon in the water listening to the ducks, the wind and the birds. I wish we could have stayed for a week.

Kayaking in an oasis

What a place!

2012 when we were biking in Iran, we had reached a bus terminal in the middle of a desert. This had been the closest to an oasis that we had been ever before today. I had often imagined an oasis as a place with date palms, a deep well, a lake and lots of green. Now imagine all of these minus the well plus seafood tacos, a historical mission, and friendly locals and you’ll get an oasis town even better than I could have ever imagined it.

The historic Mission of San Ignacio

The historic Mission of San Ignacio

The historic center was a 20 minutes foot walk from the lagoon. The old mission was situated right in the very center. As usual in Mexican towns, the plaza was situated right next to the church. It was surrounded by shops, cafés, simple hotels and restaurants.

Pretty garden near the mission of San Ignacio

Pretty garden near the mission

The abarrotes (little corner shops) sold cowboy hats and the kids played football and rode their little bicycles all around the plaza. Fancy hotels or tourist traps had never found their way into what I believe has been the “most Mexican” town on our ride through Mexico.

Nano Fong know some cool bike tricks

Nano Fong knows some cool bike tricks

We made friends with the only other tourist who was crazy enough to travel the Baja Sur during a heat wave. Bautisse from France camped at Pilarillo’s. We joined him for a beer where we met Nano Fong, world record holder for unicycle and ex-clown and magician who still knew his tricks both on the bike, as well as with magic.

We got up at 5.40 am. It was the third day of a four-day heat wave and we decided to get going as early as possible as far as possible. We biked like the wind. It would get hotter soon and by then we wanted to be done with the 500 meter climb. And we made it.

Morning ride in the desert

Morning ride

40 kilometers later we found ourselves on top of the climb and with the sun getting hotter and hotter. From here it was all downhill. Or at least that’s what everybody had been telling us. We should have known better.

"El Infierno" in Baja California Sur

Wooooooosh we were going to bike all the way down there.

There were two short but very steep drops, the “Tres Virgenes” (three virgins, named after the mountains and volcano of the same name), and the “Infierno” (Hell, probably named by the first cyclist to ever climb it).

Desert road in Mexico

The climb wasn’t the hardest part of the day.

Everything else was very hilly terrain. I had used up all my energy in the early-morning 40 kilometer sprint and now found myself without any power left in my legs. The temperatures were in the low 40s but without any shade that was more than enough to destroy the last bit of motivation.

Santa Rosalía

Santa Rosalía

I counted every kilometer. This was much harder than the quick climb in the early morning! When we finally reached Santa Rosalía at 1 pm, I was devastated.

Miguel and Roberto

Miguel and Roberto

Our friend Miguel was already waiting for us. He was a cyclist from Guadalajara, whom we had met online years ago. Miguel was not only a cyclist, but also a poet, writer, editor, artist and much more. Here you can read Roberto’s portrait on Miguel Asa.

View onto Santa Rosalía

Jesús Bastida not only took the time to show us around, but he also organised our second presentation in town.

Miguel worked his way around the country. Here in Santa Rosalía he painted some murals and held presentations on poetry. As an exchange he was given the materials, three meals a day, plus a room in a hotel. His room had two beds and he gladly shared. I had never been that excited for an electricity-wasting air conditioner before. I felt much better after a cold shower.

Students of the Cobach school in Santa Rosalía

Presentation number one in the Cobach school was a cooperation with Miguel the Poet.

We were all quite excited to finally meet in person, so Roberto went out to buy a liter of beer. Then we went for another one and another one. After the fourth bottle I had enough and after the fifth I stopped drinking. Filling my exhausted and dehydrated body with alcohol wasn’t my brightest idea. I went for a short nap at 6 pm and didn’t wake up till next morning.

Mural by Miguel the poet and painter

Mural painting day! Miguel painted the lines and the students filled them the assigned colors.

Roberto and Miguel woke up feeling even worse than me. Their hotel neighbors decided to share the contents of their cooling box with them before they headed home. It was a long night for them all.

Tasting Travels in Santa Rosalía

The second presentation in Santa Rosalía

The heat affected me worse than I thought. We worked inside as much as we could, but also held two presentations and helped Miguel with one of his murals. In the spare time we learned more about the historical mining town. There was much to see and explore. More pictures in Roberto’s “Three unknown jewels of the Baja Sur”.

Natalia Lafourcade in Santa Rosalía live in concert

Super surprise! It was our last day in town when Natalia Lafourcade came for a surprise concert!

It was our second visit on the Baja’s East Coast. Now the Bahía Concepción was waiting for us. Beach after beach surrounded by cacti. We were excited.

Here’s the next blog on Cycling the Bahía Concepción


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